No Flour means no bread

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 18, No. 24            June 12, 2008

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The demand for both flour and rice has escalated on the island. Rice has been selling for as much as $5 a pound!

Belizean bawl "Haad time"

Bread, it is perhaps one of the number one basic components of most morning or evening meals, but soon one will have to bear the price of bread shortage. That's because bakeries across the country are experiencing a flour shortage due to the lack of wheat in the country. There was a shortage of wheat in the country earlier this year, but all indications are that Belize flour shortage has reached crisis levels. There is no flour in the country and bakers from around Belize are being forced to close down.

    The man in the middle of negotiations to have flour supplied to bakers is the National President of the Bakers Association, Andre Perez. When asked by The San Pedro Sun if there was a flour shortage, Perez's reply was, "yes, a flour crisis we have been going through a shortage for quite some weeks but we have reached rock-bottom." Perez added that the shortage was due to a delay in the quarterly supply of wheat from New Orleans in the USA. Perez said that Belize Mills anticipated the delay and had ordered a shipment from Portland, Oregon but that shipment has been sitting at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala for over three weeks. When asked why, Perez's reply told us that, "according to Belize Mills, the port in Guatemala is charging import duty to allow the wheat to pass through, but Belize Mills position is that, this should not happen because it is not for consumption in Guatemala, it's just a transshipment route and that has been the contention."

    So, while the wheat sits at Puerto Quetzal for the past three weeks, Belize Mills is trying to import 300 tons of wheat to ease the pressure on consumers who depend on flour. These 300 tons is currently at the Western border and Belize Mills was expected to begin milling on Wednesday, June 11th, 2008.

    But, not only are Belizeans facing one of the worst flour crisis in recent history, but when flour reaches the shelves at the various stores, it will reach with a drastic increase of 26 dollars more on a hundred pound sack. What does this mean? Well, it simple means that Belizean will have to pay more for flour and more for bread.

    Perez told The San Pedro Sun that the increase on bread is eminent and it's in the pipeline. "Belize Mills have indicated and government knows this. They can no longer sell flour to us at a discounted price and that of course translates in an increase in the price of bread." When asked by how much, Perez's reply was "By 50 cents." However, information received indicated that another bakery had stated that the increase should not be by that much but by half of the estimate Perez had indicated. Sunny Side Sunny and Tan Baker's bakeries, Zebedee Pitterson of Belize City told the Amandala, a newspaper based out of Belize City, that 25 cents increase would suffice for the bakers. To this Perez responded, "First of all, I am very disappointed because he said he is not a member of the association and let it be on record that he is a member of the Bakers' Association. He was one of the advocates who said that he wanted an increase of 50 cents and he wanted it now." When asked, what is the government's position in regards to the bakers' request to the increase in the control price in the loaf of bread? Perez told us that "this is being discussed in Cabinet as we speak. We have given them our request and documentation as to what it costs to make a loaf of bread and they know what we are going through so in essence, an increase of 50 cents is imminent."

    Should the Government of Belize turn down their request of an increase of 50 cents per pack of bread Perez said that, "Bakeries across Belize will close down until we get an increase."

    Casa Pan Dulce Bakery is the largest bakery in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye supplying the island. Should and if wheat was not imported into the country by Wednesday. June 11th, Casa Pan Dulce will be force to close due to national flour shortage.
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